Whether you’re keeping bearded dragons, small monitors, geckos, or any other insect eating reptile or amphibian it really does not make sense to purchase crickets from a pet store for upwards of $0.10/cricket unless you only need a couple dozen a week. But if you are feeding growing babies or large collections you should be purchasing your crickets in bulk so you can feed your animals properly not just the handful a week you can afford because at 0.10 each every 10 crickets costs you a dollar, every 100 crickets costs you 10.00 and and every 1000 crickets costs you 100.00. With just a couple of growing bearded dragons you can easily go through 1000 crickets every couple of weeks if feeding properly. Now of course I recommend feeding your animals as wide a variety as you can in their insects so maybe you don’t need so many crickets every week, but if you can keep them alive longer then you can still benefit by purchasing your crickets in bulk. If you only have to purchase 1000 every 2-3 weeks and it saves you on trips to the store as well as money on the crickets that’s still a plus as I see it.
So if you’ve ever wondered what the trick is to keeping large amounts of crickets alive is, or you’ve been afraid to order bulk because you’re afraid they’ll die before you can use them then pay attention to this. For about 30-40 dollars you can build a cricket bin that will allow you to keep several thousand crickets at a time and keep the vast majority of them alive until their natural death at about 8-10 weeks of age.
There are a few things you need to remember when keeping large amounts of crickets for extended periods.
No matter what you will always have some premature die off. This is partly due to the fact that they come to you at varying stages of life. Even if you order them all the same size they will only be around the same age give or take a week, and partly due to fighting, bad molts, etc.
Most companies ship at least a small over-count (usually around 10%) to make up for the small number that may die off in shipping or prematurely so losing a few is not a big deal.
The biggest killers of crickets when keeping large amounts are lack of air flow, lack of protein in the diet, and unclean living conditions. Crickets in cramped conditions with poor airflow will build up moisture within the enclosure and in turn bacteria and possibly mold. When combined with unclean conditions where waste material is allowed to build up this is obviously amplified and occurs even more quickly. The easiest way to achieve good airflow and cleanliness is to make an enclosure out of a plastic storage bin with the bottom having been replaced with screen and a well ventilated top. The screen on the bottom allows for the cricket’s waste to fall through into another bin that I can simply empty as needed which keeps the enclosure dry and clean. You’ll also want to keep some extra egg crates on hand to switch them out as they become soiled. Use a shop vac or dust pan to scoop out the most as needed. Lastly if you fill the catch tray partially with baking soda or kitty litter it will absorb much of the odor that can be associated with crickets. Crickets fed a diet insufficient in protein will often resort to fighting and cannibalism which obviously means fewer crickets for your animals to eat. Be sure to provide a high quality diet for your feeders just as you would your pets; what they eat your animals eat afterall. I tend to feed mine a cricket chow from reptilefoods.com or badassbugs, and for moisture I give them potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, melon rinds, and fresh greens. You can also use water crystals.
Not all those dead crickets at the bottom of the bin or in your box are actually dead crickets. Sometimes if your temperatures are excessively hot or cold the cricket could need some time to bounce back when you first recieve them, and a lot of times many of the crickets molt in the box so that what you may be seeing are actually the molted exoskeletons so look very closely. The same thing happens in your bin when you keep them for a few weeks as they are obviously growing during that time.
If you order fully-grown crickets that already have their wings you have no idea if they are coming to you as freshly molted adults or mature crickets that only have days to live in their natural life. So if you need large crickets I suggest ordering them at the last or second to last stage before they grow wings and mature to the final adult stage. This way when they mature you know you should have at least 3-4 weeks of life left in them if cared for properly.
Below is my newly completed cricket bin to show you an example of how one can be put together. This one is a Rubbermaid brute tote with the bottom cut out and replaced with a pice of light diffuser cut to fit and wrapped in aluminum screen. Then I siliconed around the edges of the screen to ensure there are no gaps for escapes. The container on the bottom is the catch-tray for the waste. You can use whatever containers fit where you need them to fit. I suggest using a container tall enough that the crickets can’t jump out to easily when retrieving them to feed your animals.